2018 is the year that I’m going to learn to make lace.
Delicate, dainty and timeless, Carrickmacross was the go-to lace for royals including Queen Victoria, Princess Diana and K-Mid.
The lace-making industry here in the town of Carrickmacross, County Monaghan (around an hour’s drive north of Dublin) dates back to the 1820’s. Originally inspired by Italian lace of that era, it was once an important source of income in rural communities, made for the rich by the poor.
Today, a team of 15 skilled local craftswomen keep the unique technique alive and volunteer their time at the cutesy Carrickmacross Lace Gallery.
I popped in one afternoon last week and three of the ladies – Geraldine, Elizabeth and Ann – kindly gave up their time to tell me a little about their work here. Ann learned the craft while a pupil at the local St. Louis Convent, aged just 14. Fate brought Elizabeth and Geraldine to Carrickmacross, both marrying Monaghan men in the 1970’s and taking up lace-making shortly thereafter.
In true cottage industry style, lace is made at home rather than in the gallery itself. As well as working to keep the gallery and website fully stocked, the gals are busy fulfilling custom orders – everything from painstakingly pretty wedding veils worth thousands, to magnets and bookmarks, popular with passing tourist trade.
Among more surprising recent commissions have been the crest of local GAA side, the Carrick Emmets (er, no mean feat!) and a replica of a one particular lady’s (actually pretty tasteful) tattoo.
I’m surprised at how quickly an hour passes and I leave hungry to know more. I spy lace-making kits suitable for complete beginners for sale, as well as hard-to-come-by special Carrickmacross lace-making scissors.
There’s something hugely appealing about being part of something that’s been around for so many years and that so few people are skilled to do; the idea of helping to keep the technique alive excites me too. I only hope my needlework skills (and my eye sight) are up to the challenge!
Carrickmacross Lace Gallery is located in Market Square on Main Street (you can’t miss it) and open Monday to Saturday, 9.30m-5.30pm.
Incidentally, the gallery is shortly to be moving to expanded premises in the same building, so visitors will soon be able to see even more of the amazing work of the Carrickmacross lace-makers ❤